Podcasts: Dead Authors

So this is a podcast in which H.G. Wells (portrayed by comedian Paul F. Tompkins) travels through time and interviews other famous, and famously dead, authors (portrayed by other comedians). As with anything funny, it's largely subjective and some are simply better than others. But I can at least vouch for the Tennessee Williams episode and the Mark Twain one. I tried J.R.R. Tolkien but was less amused by that one.

There are 50 episodes, so I'm skipping around and finding ones I like. The podcasts are recorded in front of a live audience, and for the benefit of 826LA, which offers tutoring and writing programs. So you can feel good while laughing 'til you cry. (Which I literally just did while listening to Mark Twain talk about Shakespeare.)

DON'T rely on these podcasts for factual information! It's clear some light research is done ahead of time, but the rest is pure improve. To complain that something isn't right or true is to take the fun out of it. So if that kind of thing bothers you, this podcast isn't for you.

Go here for a look at all the episodes.


Television: The X-Files, "Founder's Mutation"

More alien babies.

Or, babies with alien DNA.

They're human babies but the doctors have been tinkering with them, all in the name of curing diseases or whatever.

There was a sister and a brother and some other stuff.

There were flashes of what life with William might've been like for Scully and Mulder. (William was their son; they put him up for adoption in order to protect him.)

Um . . . That was kind of the thing. Oh, except high-pitched noises that only some people could hear. But that was because of one of the semi-alien kids.

I dunno. I kind of didn't care.

Thing is, this is almost too personal? Like, it was great when Scully and Mulder worked together and bantered and cared for one another in a platonic way. But we've done the Moonlighting thing where they've had a relationship, and a child, and all that plays into what's happening, but . . . Instead of adding to the story, it actually detracts. Scully and Mulder are stiff and awkward with one another. They have this whole past, this history now that makes it difficult for them to work together, which means the real joy in the show is gone. The light has gone out.

Whatever. I'll try again next week and see if maybe they work out the kinks. Chalk it up to being rusty. I hope.


Television: The X-Files, "My Struggle"

"Mulder!" "Scully!" "Mulder . . .?" "Scully."

I'm a day behind on the launch of a very tardy season of what used to be one of my all-time favorite shows because my DVR recorded a bunch of football commentary.

I have a very special relationship with The X-Files. My best friend and I would write letters to one another in which I pretended to be Chris Carter and she was "the Crew." My final project as an undergrad was an X-Files spec. And I dined out at conventions as a well-known fanfic author (back when there were fanzines; now it's all online).

Anyway. I had reservations when I heard X-Files was returning. Could it be updated in a way that would work? And still hold all its original intensity?

Weeeellll . . .

I realize they have to acknowledge everything that has happened—that Fox and Dana have a child, that Fox is a depressed recluse, etc. But I almost wish they hadn't. I wish we could just go back to when the show was really good and pick up from there. It's a vain hope, but there you have it.

By the way, picking up where you left off means potential new viewers won't have any idea what the fuck is going on, your opening narration notwithstanding.

But let's talk about the episode itself. Scully gets a call and contacts Mulder to let him know Skinner wants him to meet Jeff Winger Tad O'Malley, a conspiracy theorist with a television audience. Mulder asks the very valid question of, "Why didn't he just call me directly?" and Scully tells him, "No one knows how to reach you." What she doesn't say is: "Because this is how we get roped into working together to incite this plot."

Seriously, though, Joel McHale is playing Jeff Winger from Community here. And when I started to imagine the whole episode as something Abed was daydreaming, it got a lot more entertaining. It actually felt more like that than like a for real episode of The X-Files. I wanted a scene in which Abed snaps to and finds Jeff starting at him like, "Earth to Abed."

Okay, so Tad takes Mulder and Scully to meet a woman who has suffered multiple abductions, and who claims to have been made pregnant many times only to have the babies taken from her. But then the whole thing devolves into, "It's not aliens! It's our own government doing secret experiments using alien technology and DNA!"

You see, the episode is peppered with flashbacks to Roswell. The alien whose ship crashed is shot by military, but now the US government has the body, and the ship, and can go to town playing with all that shit. Why not try to create alien-human hybrids?

Scully tests the woman for alien DNA but the results are negative. She tests herself too, also negative. But then she runs the tests again and presto! Positive!

I would think you'd have to run them a third time, right? Like, one negative and one positive really means you still don't know. You'd need best of three at a minimum, and to be more sure you'd need a lot more tests. Right?

Whatever. Tad ends up off the air and the woman (Sveta) recants her claims of having been abducted. Then we see Smoking Man and know . . . Something. That he's alive, for one thing, and probably going to try and stop Mulder and Scully from learning anything useful.

By the way, was I supposed to think Scully and Tad were, like, going out on a date? What was that about?

I see why this episode exists. It sets up the conspiracy thing, brings Mulder and Scully back together, and gives them a personal stake (Scully's alien DNA). But it still wasn't all that good. There was some really clunky dialogue in there, and there wasn't any satisfactory payoff. I know you can't resolve everything, but you should at least resolve something in order to gratify viewers. That didn't happen here.

I'll try to watch the next one in the next day or so. Hoping we only go up from here.


Television: Limitless, "Stop Me Before I Hug Again"

This show is very clever with its gimmicks. In this particular episode, Brian goes into his subconscious and discovers a childhood television mascot there to coach him through the horrifying realities of a serial killer. Said mascot tells Brian to substitute less scary words, such as "hug" instead of "murder." And every serial killer is given the name of an ice cream flavor.

It's cute. It's funny. It works. But I do wonder if/when it will become tired. Can the writers of Limitless keep this up? (I also wondered how difficult it was for the actors to say the lines without cracking a smile.)

Brian's abilities come to the attention of the FBI profilers at Quantico. They want him on their team. One profiler in particular is a celebrity of sorts after having caught a killer and written a book about it. But then, upon reviewing old files, Brian realizes this profiler nabbed the wrong man.

Meanwhile, Rebecca is beginning to figure out that Morra might himself be on NZT. When Brian tries to fix evidence in storage, he flubs it and Rebecca finds the discrepancy. Not like Brian to mess things up, at least not when he's on NZT. His subconscious points out that maybe he really wants to be caught so he can stop having to lie.

A solid episode, though it perhaps leaned a little too heavily on the cute stuff. My chief concern really is whether the show can sustain the cleverness without going over the top. It's a great series, so I'd hate to see it do itself in.


Television: Elementary, "Murder Ex Machina"

In which we get a lesson on the politics of sanctions and war profiteering.

To be honest, I didn't much follow the guts of the story, which was something about a very rich Russian and how people were supplying weapons in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The result was some murders, the key being that men in a car found they could not control the car because the car had been hacked and someone else was driving it remotely.

I knew whodunnit the minute we met him on screen; there's a particular style of delivery that comes from the person who is ultimately guilty for which I'm not sure whether to blame the actor or director. Either way it's a dead giveaway. I tuned out the bulk of the episode at that point, just waiting for my "called it!" moment.

And, yes, I got my moment.

The rest of the show was about, oh, who makes money if this deal does or doesn't go through, who profits from this death, etc. Very valid questions when it comes to a murder investigation but not all that riveting.

Meanwhile, Sherlock's father (who I've taken to calling "Dracula Daddy" because that's kind of what he looks and acts like) comes to ask Joan to dinner. There is a terrible moment of, But she already slept with the brother; they won't throw in the dad, too, will they? Too soap opera by far. But it turns out Morland wants Joan's help in banking his blood in case of future emergencies. (See? Dracula.) After doing some digging of her own, Joan deduces Morland was the target of a shooting that left one woman dead but failed to kill him. It seems he's worried someone may make another attempt to kill him. And based on the previews for next week, it may be that Morland believes Sherlock is the one behind it. Guess we'll have to wait and see.


Notebook Lenormand

I saw this deck in a Facebook group and it really appealed to me, largely because of the use of keywords on the cards.

Being a writer, I like words. Obviously, the keywords on these cards are not the only possible interpretations, but they're good starting points and I think would be especially handy for those just beginning to learn Lenormand.

I like the size of the cards, too, which are not quite as small as some decks. This makes them easier to shuffle. The artwork itself on the cards is nothing special, but the pops of color for the pips/playing cards are nice. If you're more a visual reader, though, this deck may not be the one for you.

The deck itself comes from The Fortune Teller (Paris Debono) in Australia. He has a lot of neat decks on his site. I've got my eye on a couple more, but I can't really see ordering decks from Australia too often. I was lucky to be able to find this one on Amazon (sent by Paris in Australia), and it arrived in good time, well before the estimated date. Nice little box, too. I'm highly satisfied.


Television: Scorpion, "Sun of a Gun"

They've gone on and on enough about Sylvester's terrible family that it was only a matter of time before his parents turned up, right? One of them, at least. In this case, Sly's father (played by Jeff Fahey, so that I wanted to shout "Lapidus" at him periodically), who he hasn't seen in 13 years. Turns out that, along with being unable to deal with having a brilliant son, Mr. Dodd also has an obsession with third-world countries developing "sun guns" that allow them to zap cities off the map like Bond villains. Dodd Sr. has been on about this for years, apparently, and is now vindicated when some African dictator has, in fact, developed such a weapon.

The rest of it is par for the course: A trip to said African country under the guise of inspecting something or other, discovery of the weapon, plans to disable it but also leave evidence so that the world can act accordingly by sanctioning or bombing or whatever they do.

What really sort of bummed me out was that the preview I saw for this episode emphasized Walter in a speed dating situation. That happened at the open of the episode but ended quickly. I was all primed for hilarity and there was none.

Note that previews for the next episode also show Walter on a date. But now I don't want to get my hopes up.

And Jesus, even when Toby is left behind at headquarters because he's sick, they keep piling on the Toby-and-Happy schtick. Make. It. Stop.

It was an okay episode. Better than the stupid dam or Antarctica, though that's not saying much. I really think they need to lean more into the humor. I know it's not a sitcom or anything, but they're taking themselves a little to seriously with the angst between Toby and Happy and all that. Lighten it up, guys. Not just in the first five minutes but throughout.

Television: Elementary, "A Burden of Blood"

Any time a character attempts to point the police in a particular direction, it's pretty much a given they're guilty.

Knowing this means I knew whodunnit fairly early on and simply rode out the remainder of the episode.

I also felt the reason for the murder was insanely weak. Not that murderers always have great reasons for killing people, but the writers didn't really set up the situation particularly well. So by the time we got to the end of the show, the "why" felt slapped on and unexplored.

The episode itself is about a woman found suffocated to death in her car. Turns out she was eight weeks pregnant despite having tubal ligation. Of course the husband is immediately suspected, followed by the revelation of the woman having slept with the real estate agent. Finally, we learn that the woman is the daughter of a notorious murderer who killed his victims in exactly the same way she was killed.

I won't give anything away. You can go watch it if you want to know how it plays out. Let's just say I was underwhelmed.

I was also not keen on the cold open which was ostensibly meant to make us believe Watson and Bell were engaged in some sexy, fun times. But that is patently ridiculous given the way their characters have been built, so the whole thing felt egregious. Sure, maybe the point was that Holmes was being ridiculous for jumping to that conclusion. But it still felt all wrong.

B plot turns out to be that Bell is studying for an exam so he can be promoted. He's not particularly interested in moving up the ladder so much as he needs the pay raise to help his mother. Watson has been helping Bell study, but once Holmes learns of it, he insists on taking over Bell's education. Then, as it becomes clear Bell's heart isn't in it, Holmes offers Bell a loan, which of course Bell roundly refuses. So Holmes and Watson come up with a final test for Bell, and when he solves the case they give him, they pay him for his services. A nice way of looping him into the business, I suppose. But on the whole, I found this episode weak and largely forgettable. Here's hoping the next one is better.


Movies: The Visit

Okay, so I have mixed feelings about M. Night Shyamalan's work. I know his movies are full of holes and flaws, and it has become a pastime of some people to point those out. And I honestly wasn't as blown away by The Sixth Sense as so many people seem to have been when it came out. But I do, in general, enjoy his movies. I think they're nicely done, and I usually am at least a bit entertained. It's only after the fact, when one thinks very much about them, that one sees the lack of clothing on the emperor. While watching (at least the first time), I'm usually drawn in enough not to be diverted in such ways.

Alas, The Visit did not draw me in. It was weird but not scary, and the "mystery" failed to engross me. I had it figured out fairly early on, and there wasn't any point at which I was all that worried for the main characters. Plus, the moments in which the characters made ridiculously bad decisions (as in so many horror movies) were egregious enough to be distracting.

I hadn't really read anything about the movie before watching it, which is my preferred way of going into a Shyamalan film. Turns out it's about two kids visiting their grandparents for the first time ever. Rebecca is 15 and an aspiring filmmaker, so the movie is all from the point of view of her filming the titular visit, interviewing her grandparents and so on. Her younger brother Tyler is 13 and a would-be rapper.

These kids' parents are divorced and the mother estranged from the grandparents which is why Rebecca and Tyler have never met them. And also why their mother does not accompany them on the trip. She just puts them on a train and off they go. This alone seems like a terrible decision, but I was able to let it slide. Later on, when there should have been calls to 911—that's when I was like, NOPE.

The bulk of the movie is Rebecca and Tyler trying to make sense of weird things happening at their grandparents' house. Their grandmother is "sundowning," which means she goes crazy every night at 10:00 or so. Their grandfather is incontinent and hides the dirty diapers in the barn, and he also dresses up for nonexistent costume parties. Yet when the kids Skype with their mother (who is out on a cruise with her boyfriend), they play down the bizarre nature of things. Or at least Rebecca does. She's keen to get her grandparents to confess some kind of forgiveness so that their mom can be reunited with them, so I guess she feels it works against her plan to say, "Nana and Pop Pop are crazy!"

I won't give the twist away, though it's pretty standard fare and easily seen coming.

On the whole, I was kind of bored and disappointed with the whole thing. Rebecca and Tyler fail to be engaging enough characters to carry the film, and the grandparents are certainly creepy in some ways, but I didn't find them entirely threatening. The whole thing felt like Paranormal Activity Lite. Which might be right for some audiences, but does nothing for me.


Books: The Dragon in the Garden by Erika Gardner

You've bought The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller, right? You're devouring it as we speak? And then you plan to write a review for Amazon or Goodreads or wherever else? Good! Because as soon as you're done with that, I have another book for you: The Dragon in the Garden by Erika Gardner.

Okay, so to be fair, this is a completely different kind of book than Peter. And maybe not everyone has as wide-ranging tastes as I do. But if you like fantasy, you'll probably enjoy this one. Dragons, angels, demons, and a Valkyrie? Anyone?

The official blurb:
There is magic beneath the mundane and in The Dragon in the Garden, Siobhan Orsini witnesses it all. No lie can fool her, no glamour or illusion can cloud her Sight. She sees through them all and wishes she could close her eyes. Returning to face her past, Siobhan inherits her grandparents’ house in California’s wine country. She encounters a talking dragon, a hot fallen angel, a demon lord, a Valkyrie, and, oh yes, her ex-boyfriend. And that is just in the first twenty-four hours.
You can pre-order from links found on the publisher's site. (There's an excerpt there, too.) The book comes out on February 19th and is the first in a trilogy.


Books: Happy Birthday to Peter!

My novel The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller is now available! If you pre-ordered, you should now be able to download the book to your device. If you haven't bought it yet, you can find buying options on PepperWords and also on my publisher's site.

For those of you who don't know what the book is about, well, it's set in 1960's London and follows a British spy as he tries to figure out the truth about his lover Charles who has been accused of treason. Sort of in the vein of John Le Carré, if you like that kind of thing.

On PepperWords, you'll find a sidebar with a collection of blog articles about Peter if you want to learn more. There are also book club discussion questions since a couple of people have expressed interest in selecting Peter for their reading groups.

It would mean a lot to me, too, if you'd write a review once you've read the book. Reviews really are the life's blood of a book (and author). I know time is a precious commodity, and that by even choosing to read my book you're gifting me with valuable hours. I certainly appreciate it.

Thank you for being readers! xoxoxo


Television: Scorpion, "White Out"

I want to say that I tried to watch "Dam Breakthrough" and just couldn't even get into it. Just couldn't care. And I didn't much care about this episode either. For me, Scorpion is starting to fizzle.

This episode is about a Special Forces team that is pinned down and how the Scorpion team needs to go to Antarctica to fix a satellite so drones can be deployed in time to save the men. There is a lot of Toby and Happy stuff, and a lot of Ralph being overly precious, and they ruined one of my favorite songs because now I'm going to think of this stupid plot every time I hear it. Sigh.

Just before writing about this show, I was writing up Limitless, and I think that show is just so much better. Everything I like about Limitless—the humor, the well-rounded characters that feel like real people, the carefully nuanced relationships—is the opposite here. Scorpion feels forced. They keep harping on the Toby and Happy thing, the Walter and Paige thing, and everyone comes across as very one-dimensional. Walter "learning" how to be a functioning human being is not entertaining. Every now and then he shows progress, but on the whole the character remains unchanged. At the start of every episode it's as if a reset button has been pushed and every character is the same as ever. The show feels like it's spinning its wheels and not going anywhere.

I honestly don't know how much longer I'll keep watching.

On another note, I guess I'm officially old now. I watch CBS. Hmm.

Television: Limitless, "The Assassination of Eddie Morra"

Well, okay. It was only a matter of time before we got another NZT user as an antagonist. (Or possible ally?) This is kind of an age-old story tactic. When your main character is the smartest in the room, how do you find a viable nemesis? You need someone just as smart or smarter. Doyle created Moriarty, and here we have . . . Piper. ::shrug::

We also have lots of Bradley Cooper. This show definitely uses him whenever they can grab him for a few hours of filming. Not that I'm complaining. Those eyes . . . Sorry, I'm back. What were we talking about?

Oh, yeah, so it stands to reason Brian isn't the only pawn Morra has given NZT + immunity to in order to use them to further his ends. In this episode it surfaces that there is at least one other, a woman named Piper Baird, who is set on killing Morra because (she says) he killed her boyfriend. Brian doesn't particularly want to be dragged into all this, but he has little choice when (a) Morra instructs him to find and kill Piper, and (b) Piper introduces herself to Brian's family as his girlfriend.

Uninterested in taking sides, Brian manages to appease both by planning with Piper a fake death that makes it appear as if he's killed her just as Morra demands. Piper is then free to continue her fun revenge spree or whatever. I assume the writers will keep her in reserve making her likely to pop up again in the future.

This episode featured some of the best use of Brian's talking-to-himself way of problem solving. I also like that the show continues with moral ambiguity, making it more complex than many other such shows. I like that the relationships are nuanced rather than hit-you-over-the-head simplistic. Limitless continues to be one of the most fun shows on television thanks to great writing and just the right balance of weight and humor. Not every episode can be great, but all of them have been solid. And even when they fall back on old tropes, well, they do a nice job with them.


Television: Elementary, "Miss Taken"

This was one of the more interesting episodes of Elementary, perhaps because of the elements taken from a couple of my favorite of the Doyle stories.

A retired FBI agent is found murdered, and the trail leads back to unsolved cases he continued to look into, in particular one about a kidnapped girl named Mina Davenport. The rub? Mina escaped ten years after being taken and is now happily at home.

Or is she?

Though DNA tests proved the girl claiming to be Mina was, well, if not Mina then at least related to the Davenports. But both Holmes and Watson immediately identify the girl as not Mina based on her ears. (Go look at "The Cardboard Box.")

Mystery girl becomes the prime suspect in the FBI agent's murder. It seems the agent was closing in on the truth.

She spins a sad story for Holmes and Watson, throwing blame on the Davenports who, the girl says, molested and murdered Mina and gladly accepted a substitute in order to have a living alibi. The girl also notes that she's up for a huge trust fund, so if Holmes and Watson would please just play along, she'll happily skip town once she has her money.

Bold much?

Neither Holmes nor Watson buys the false Mina's story, though they pretend to. They've tried to tell the Davenports that Mina isn't . . . Mina, but the Davenports won't hear of it. So Holmes improvises a flash-bang bomb to give the NYPD (and its consultants) a reason to revisit the Davenport home and collect DNA.

The original DNA test had shown the fake Mina to be related to the Davenports. The hypothesis is that this girl had someone in the lab helping her, but when the NYPD runs its own tests, the DNA continues to show they're related.

Holmes then realizes Fake Mina must have access to actual Mina.

The episode ends in a bit of a landslide, but on the whole is solid, and the introduction of this little con artist adds much-needed interest. She's what Kitty should have been, yet she's an adversary rather than an ally.

Meanwhile, the secondary plot was equally entertaining. Watson discovers her step-father has written a book based on her and Holmes. She takes it badly and insists he tell his publisher to pull the book out of distribution. (I found the idea that it was not an ebook a bit unlikely, I must say.) Watson is convinced if Holmes finds out he will go ballistic. Turns out Holmes knew and had no problem with it, noting in a very meta way that he has been the basis for many literary endeavors. The only reason he'd disliked it when Watson herself had written about him was because he'd used his actual name and background.

Watson's step-father gives Watson the draft for his next book, another about her and Holmes, and tells her to do what she wants with it. Burn it, whatever. But Watson re-thinks things and gives it back to him—with notes and corrections.

I like (probably because I'm a writer myself) that they've looped in the literary element here. Doyle's Watson chronicled Holmes' exploits. It's nice to see that thread taken up here, and in a new and different way.

Easily the best episode of Elementary in a while. More like this, please.


Tea Party

I really enjoy tea. To be clear, I prefer hot tea to iced, though now and then a sweet iced tea does hit the spot.

For a long time, when my children were a bit smaller, and when we lived somewhere colder, we kept a regular tea time. I would make tea for myself and cocoa for them, and we would have shortbread biscuits or Pirouettes. After we moved to California, however, and as the kids got older and their schedules became more chaotic, that habit fell away. Even I don't drink tea as often as I used to, though as I'm trying to get away from soda, I find myself moving back toward tea.

There is a lot of tea out there in the world, and as many different tastes as teas. For myself, I like tea with a bit of bite. A spiced chai usually makes me happy. The tea I drink most regularly is Teavana's Maharaja Oolong. This is a chai with a bit of a cinnamony flavor to it, and I don't put anything in it. It doesn't need sugar or honey or lemon or milk; it's perfect as is.

Alas, the Maharaja Oolong does not have much caffeine, so it is not a good choice for first thing in the morning (at least, not for me). I prefer it in the afternoons because that is the time I'm trying to avoid caffeine. I'm an insomniac and can't drink caffeine after 3:00 or I'll never sleep.

Another favorite tea of mine is peppermint. I particularly crave this tea when I'm not feeling well. I do like to add a bit of honey to it, but not so much for taste as to up the soothe factor.

Now, when it's hot out and I do want a cool tea, I generally turn to Twinings Peach and Passion Fruit. I like fruit teas in general for iced teas. Teavana has a Strawberry Paraiso, which is a white tea, which is also nice. So is David's Tea's Midsummer Night's Dream, which has no caffeine at all.

Still, there is a lot of tea I haven't tried, so I'd like to hear from you. What teas would you recommend? Be aware that I like my tea to have a bit of flavor. Traditionalists will be scandalized, but I must admit that Earl Gray and English Breakfast do little for me. Aside from that, though, I like all colors of tea: black, white, green. As I mentioned, chai is my favorite, but I'm just as happy to branch out. So let me know your favorite tea! And whether you drink it with milk, sugar, lemon, or honey. Or not. Why or why not? I want to hear all about it.


Lavender Olive Oil Soap from Carmel Valley Ranch

This is just an aside. I've written about LUSH and such, and I do have a ridiculous weakness for soaps and bubble baths and bath bombs and lotions and . . . Well, anyway, I recently stayed at Carmel Valley Ranch, and they have some of the best soap I have ever come across in my life. Which is saying something when you consider how much soap I've dealt with in my not-inconsiderable number of years. I mean, besides the regular, daily interactions with soap, I also actively seek out soap in out-of-the-way places. That's a lot of soap.

I love the Carmel Valley Ranch soap so much, I called the gift shop and had them FedEx me three bars. It smells amazing, it feels amazing, it is as close as I've ever come to the perfect soap. The bars are . . . Bigger than what you get in the hotel rooms but not as large as a full-size bar of soap. They come wrapped in wax paper and twine, which is so adorable I almost hate to unwrap them. Almost. Right now I can hardly wait to bathe. I'm trying to decide whether to keep one bar wrapped and sitting on my desk just so I can pick it up and sniff it occasionally. (Hey, if soap is my drug of choice, I'm doing okay.)

At $16 a bar, the cost is steep, but I've decided this soap is worth it. I'll just try not to use it all up in one go. It will be difficult to restrain myself, but at least I do have a lot of backup soaps in my arsenal. If I were a dragon, I'd probably hoard bath products. And candles.

In Retrospect: American Idol

So Pop Culture Happy Hour's most recent podcast is a discussion of American Idol, which is a show I used to watch quite fixedly, and I think it's funny/interesting that a lot of the discussion on the podcast was centered around the question, "When did you stop watching?" As if it were a given that pretty much everyone had.

I gave up ages ago myself, though I had to go look up the Wiki to figure out when. Before I did that, I had to really think about it. The last thing I could remember was Adam Lambert, which is a strange way to put it, but it's true. It's like I'd been knocked upside the head by the juggernaut that is (was) American Idol, and my tunnel vision narrowed to Adam Lambert and then I lost consciousness.

I can't remember if I finished that season (which, it turns out, was Season 8) or gave up partway through, but I know I didn't watch any of Season 9. From time to time I've tuned in to the auditions to see if anyone sparks my interest, but the more you watch, the more manufactured the drama appears. To be sure, it's always been manufactured, but like anything you're overexposed to, it becomes so much more obvious after a while. And that becomes annoying. It's like . . . You're fine to go watch a theatrical production. You know the sets are sets. But if every play you ever saw used the same set pieces? While the actors kept trying to make you believe they were real? You'd be like, "Get the fuck outta my face. Seriously." What was magical loses its luster, and suddenly you never want to see another play again. Because you've seen everything they can possibly do with those stupid sets.

That was a crap metaphor, but I hope you see my point. What was fun is now just a long, involved process. And when it became increasingly clear that the winners may or may not actually have careers (I was really pulling for David Cook there), it began to feel like there was nothing actually at stake. Runners up were having chart-topping singles while winners went nowhere. So it didn't really matter who won.

If I'm honest, I probably began the slide away from Idol when Daughtry got voted off in Season 5. I'm glad he's had a solid career in the aftermath. And whatever happened to Taylor Hicks? See what I mean by it not mattering? And if there's nothing at stake, the reasons to watch (or vote) dwindle.

For me, motivation to watch continued to erode as the chosen contestants got increasingly uninteresting to me (translation: I got older and am too stuck in my music preferences to deal with these young whippersnappers), and when judges I knew and loved began walking away as well. I did make a half-hearted attempt to try the show again when Harry Connick Jr. came on; I worked with him a while back and he's lovely, someone whose judgement [in music] I would certainly trust. But I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm. Whatever I'd liked in Idol early on was gone, or I'd grown out of it or something.

Truth is, I don't do reality television any more. I had a fair run with Idol and also enjoyed Survivor for a while, but then the market got crowded and I began missing scripted drama and characters. As a writer, I have great appreciation for the work that goes into scripted television. And you can tell me up, down, and backward that reality TV is just as much work or more, but I'll never "get it." It feels so much more forced to me. It feels like gossip and backstabbing. I know some people relish those things, but I do not.

American Idol is now entering its 15th and final season. And I still have no desire to go back and try watching it again. All these singers sound alike to me these days anyway. Guess it's time to go sit on the front porch and grumble at the neighborhood kids.


Television: Jessica Jones, The Man in the High Castle, & Making a Murderer

So. My winter break has been somewhat productive, but also been a bit of a break from the television grind. (Meanwhile, I've seen Star Wars three times now.)

First off, I finished Jessica Jones. On the whole, I really enjoyed it. However. I will say somewhere toward the back half the pacing began to feel a bit off, as if they were stretching things out. And, without spoiling anything, the final dénouement was, to me, a tad weak. As if after all that stretching they realized they had to wrap it up really quickly because they'd run out of time. I just wanted something a lot more intense than what I got. But I'll still watch the second season, which I believe will focus on whatever is going on with Simpson. Whether or not I'll give Daredevil another try remains to be seen. I've been told by many it's worth it, but I watched the first couple episodes and wasn't hooked. So I don't know.

Speaking of not hooked, despite all the buzz, I didn't love The Man in the High Castle. At least, not the first episode, which is all I watched. It has great production value, and an interesting premise, but they failed to make me care about any of the characters. The only one I had any empathy/sympathy for was the young Japanese man whom Juliana stood up. I felt really bad for him. It clearly took all his courage to ask her to tea like that. But the rest of the show? Meh. I probably won't keep watching.

But. Last night I did watch the first two episodes of Making a Murderer, and I'm all in. I only stopped at two because it was really late. No spoilers, please! I anticipate zipping through the remainder relatively quickly. I'm not usually a binge watcher, but on this I could definitely fill up.

What have you been watching? Or did you keep the television off during the holidays?


Television: Sherlock, "The Abominable Bride"

People keep asking me 1. whether I saw it and 2. what I thought.

1. Yes.
2. ::shrug::

I have a lot of thoughts about it, but it's not worth the trouble.

Except, just to say in general, that Moriarty's return makes no sense when his original plan in "Reichenbach" was to discredit Sherlock by making it seem like he [Moriarty] never existed. So why suddenly turn up on screens all over the country? Is this going to be a "Copper Beeches" thing?